Mastering the Art of Bagua Zhang



Bruce with Taoist Master Liu Hung Chieh

The most important thing in any martial arts is not what style you study, or the brand name, but rather the level of fighting skill of the individual.

A world-class racing driver in a so-so car will beat a poor driver in the world’s best car. Only when two drivers are of equal skill will the technology of the car be the determining factor in who wins the race.

Each martial arts school has its special kung fu or “skill technology.” For example, the lineage of Tung Hai-Ch’uan became famous for its special kung fu techniques. All students could learn the movements, but only a few learned the kung fu techniques that had bagua zhang’s unique flavor and power. This kung fu is genuinely internal and is a subject of doing, not talking.

Many people today, even so-called famous teachers in China and the U.S., cannot apply traditional bagua zhang techniques to unrehearsed fighting. Either they perform movement arts or they do bagua zhang movements using the power, flavor and kung fu techniques of Shaolin. An excellent external martial artist will always beat a poor or so-so bagua zhang practitioner.

There are monastic forms of bagua that are purely about chi cultivation and meditation, making no claims to be martial arts, although some also make those claims.

Even within the internal martial arts family, it takes years of training to clearly separate bagua, tai chi and hsing-i in a manner that each retains its own separate characteristics.

Each of my three bagua teachers was always after me to separate the three, and it took me almost 20 years of study and practice to do so. Learning the movements alone took two to three years and when I finally got to the stage of learning the kung fu techniques, it always became much more difficult and satisfying.

However, fighting is only one part of the art. Bagua is also a purely Taoist art. Tai chi is different–it may or may not be Taoist, but its movements without question came from Buddhist Shaolin. Tai chi, as it descended from the Chen Village, was not used as a meditation technique; it was simply a method of destroying your opponent with extreme efficiency. Only at higher levels could it become meditation.

Most people aren’t capable of practicing tai chi as meditation at the beginning or intermediate levels. Chen Style Tai Chi was more the equivalent of an AK-47; it was essentially a military weapon.

Bagua zhang is a different matter; it is completely Taoist. The whole method of bagua zhang is manifesting the Eight Energies of the I Ching inside your body and finding that still place that does not change. It is about meditation, but Tung Hai-Ch’uan didn’t teach it to everyone because not all of his students had the capacity to understand it. From this meditation base, the real function of bagua zhang is to make Heaven and Earth actually reside inside your own body. Eventually what is inside of you and what is outside of you will come together, and that is when you have joined with nature–the TAO.

A picture of a tree is not a tree. The I Ching represents in written form the energies from which the Universe is constructed. However, bagua zhang practitioners are not concerned with these intellectual or symbolic representations.

They are concerned with directly experiencing these Universal Energies within their own bodies and minds. If you establish these energies inside your own body and mind, you will personally understand the realities behind these symbols. The goal of the pre-birth physical exercises and sitting meditations of bagua zhang is to directly experience the energies of the eight trigrams.

One of the things that makes bagua zhang unique is the fact that it starts off from that meditation basis. Fighting is nothing more than manipulating those energies for a purpose. Using bagua zhang to develop the practitioner’s capacity for meditation–to develop the ability to be simultaneously multi-dimensional, to be able to simultaneously manipulate things inside your body and inside your mind as you are practicing–these are things the average human being doesn’t even know exists.

For millennia only formal disciples were taught inner meditation aspects of bagua zhang.  My teacher, Liu Hung Chieh, learned it from Ma Shih-Ching (also known as Ma Kuei) who learned it from Tung Hai-Ch’uan, and Liu taught them to me. When I was studying in Taiwan and Hong Kong I did all kinds of energy practices, but I never really learned the real meditation art of bagua zhang. In fact, I never thought I would because it is a very challenging subject and few teachers will share it.

I’m open with my teaching because the healing aspect of bagua zhang is incredibly valuable and I want to make it widely available to help counteract the looming healthcare tsunami. It is a real problem that few acknowledge even as there are shortages of doctors, nurses and other professionals, and services are denied due to lack of resources for some of those with the greatest need.

Bagua Zhang is in the throes of death and future generations are in danger of losing the powerful benefits offered by this unique art form–not to mention aspects of their cultural heritage. Universal peace and brotherhood will ultimately be found through spiritual means like meditation and not through war.

We are going to offer a few more copies and reopen the Program until these copies sell out. You can learn more at the page here and pre-order one of the remaining copies here:


About Author

Bruce is passionate about teaching the wisdom from Taoism including qigong, tai chi, healing, martial arts and meditation. He has been doing so for over 50 years and is a lineage holder in the Taoist Water Tradition. You can find out more at


  1. Hi, Im not sifu frantzis, I personally think the best English translation of the I Ching is by taoist master alfred huang.


    Zaafira Reply:

    Thank you Steve. I took a brief look at the beginning and it appears one of Huang’s masters knew the ancient pictograph form of Chinese writing that the I Ching was originally written in, so I’m sure that helped him quite a bit. I was impressed with the amount of help he had with his translation, both from the East and the West, so I picked up a copy. However, I’m a slow and careful reader when it comes to the sort of thing, I imagine I’ll be studying it for quite some time. Thanks again.


    steve Reply:

    Your welcome. Enjoy the read. He also wrote another book which discusses in more detail the hexagrams and sequences. Im not sure if its availiable still. I bought them both when they came out. Im not sure that master Huang is still with us but a few years ago when I last looked he had a nice web site where you could do the iching for free. It was very nice. I dont think its up anymore though.


  2. Hi Bruce: In the future, is having an intermediate grasp of speaking mandarin sufficient in finding a taoist adept in China to teach me the 16 neigung components pertaining to Bagua? Basically, taoist monastery vs. taoist community vs. taoist adept) I’m enjoying your Bagua program and plan to adhere by your recommended guidelines and be patient with the learning process. Thank you.


    Tai Chi Master Bruce Frantzis Reply:

    Maybe. At the end of the day you have to find a teacher who knows it and is willing to teach it. You have to find someone you have a connection with then you just need the perseverance to learn it because going through that process takes a lot of effort.

    Please don’t think it will be easy to even find someone to teach you the 16 neigong as that is no easy thing. It is rare that someone is open about this stuff – it is not a common event in my experience.


  3. To take most of the translations of the I Ching, introduces most people to a high level without much basic understanding and so the message from Heaven doesn’t really get through. To start off you might try ‘The complete Idiot’s guide to the I Ching’ by recognized Author’s that give you the background of the Hexigram’s and how it might apply to Bagua, Feng Shui or Divination. Not an easy book to find. After digesting that, Bruce had recommended ‘The Original I Ching Oracle’ by Rudolf Ritsema & Shantena Augusto Sabbadini for the Bagua Instructors course last year.


  4. hi bruce really love and appreciate the work you’ve and continue to do.
    question is what is the significance of so called “condensed breathing” “bone marrow” chi gong exercise in relation to tai ji and bagua. im really concerned about learning the a nei gong system in its entirety for healing self and others. seems this is necassary aspect. wondering if this will be taught in your intructor training in wu style tai ji this year.
    thanks so much
    mustafa hill
    peace and blessings
    “The people are asleep, when they die, the wake up” The Prophet Muhammad


  5. Kevin Hartwell on

    Hello Bruce,

    Is Bagua circle walking a form of Yang exercise?

    If so would the instructions available in The Great Stillness be a good place to begin learning?

    I think a could use a form of yang exercise and was wondering if that could help. However, Ive learned DT chi gung and Energy Gates from your materials and am practicing in the meditation circle as well so I dont want to bite off more than I can chew as I’d like to build a strong foundation and teach at some point.

    Many Thanks,

    Kevin Hartwell


  6. Pingback: Bagua – Circle Walking Class | Maui Tai Chi

Leave A Reply